For a weeklong trip to visit her twin sister in London, Maggie Archibald thought she had all her bases covered by packing the right spring dress and a fascinator.
Needing to know how to curtsy when meeting the queen, she didn’t plan for.
The 24-year old twins attended the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, having obtained tickets through the High Commission of Canada.
"we didn’t know who we would meet, we just knew it would be someone from the Royal Family... Then they played God Save the Queen and out walks the Queen. I think we both started shaking.”
- Emma Archibald
“You can apply every year, but only get tickets once in your life,” said Emma Archibald, who works for Deloitte in London. “They’re free.”
A crowd of between 6,000-8,000 entered through the main gates of Buckingham Palace at 3 p.m., beginning their tour in a courtyard before going through first floor of the palace itself.
“Everyone was so lovely,” said Emma. “All of the guards and assistants were pointing out photos of King George and they have this beautiful china beautifully displayed. Then you walk through into the garden and it’s massive, huge, and there are tents set up. They start serving tea in the main tent at 3:30, and they had sandwiches with the crust cut off, and all these little tarts with jam, and you can get tea or iced coffee.”
Apart from the quality food, Emma said the porta potties were special too, with “fine Scottish soap.”
The sisters were enjoying tea and cake and talking about their plans to attend the west end production of Come From Away when a man approached them, identifying himself as a member of the Queen’s Guard.
“It was explained to us later in the day, but basically there are Guards dressed up with the hats and the red coats but there are also Guards just amongst the crowd in top hats with little flowers in their (lapels),” Emma said. “He was asking about how we were invited, etc., then asked if we’d like to meet a member of the Royal Family. Maggie said yes.”
The next thing they knew, they and 10 or so others had been whisked to a staircase that led into the garden.
“At this point, we didn’t know who we would meet, we just knew it would be someone from the Royal Family,” said Emma. “I told Maggie, ‘no matter what, we’re going to be gracious, we’re not going to be disappointed and let it spoil the afternoon. Because the Queen doesn’t attend every Royal Garden Party, so it might be somebody else, Will and Kate, or Harry, or Camilla and Charles, so we’re going to be very grateful to whoever we meet.’ Then they played God Save the Queen and out walks the Queen. I think we both started shaking.”
A few minutes later, the two were accompanied over to where the Queen was standing, for a private chat that lasted three or four minutes.
“We did shake her hand and we both did a little curtsy,” Emma said. “We’d had a bit of a briefing before by one of the senior members of the Royal Guards, and he said the first time you introduce yourself you say Your Majesty and then it’s ma’am. So we both said it’s very nice to meet you, Your Majesty. I was so nervous I can’t even remember what we said. I just babbled for a few moments.”
Maggie remembers, though. She says the Queen asked where they are from and what kind of work they do.
“She asked us what we did for our jobs and I explained to her that I am a content marketing specialist (at Foundation Marketing) and do a lot of work in social media and she said, ‘Oh, that’s really fascinating, you must enjoy that,’” Maggie said. “It was very nerve-racking,” especially the curtsying part. “I just kind of put my left leg behind my right and bent down. It felt pretty cool to be able to curtsy to the Queen.”
Emma said for the rest of the afternoon, people were coming up to them to ask what Queen Elizabeth had said to them and to share photos.
“We’d given Maggie’s phone to a woman who was standing near us in the crowd, but there were lots of people who had different angles and different shots. People were coming up and offering to send us photos, which was pretty cool,” said Emma, who was glad they had taken the directions on dress seriously.
“Women had to wear a spring dress and either a hat or a fascinator,” she said. “So I had on a long sleeve black dress and Maggie had on a pink dress and she had a fascinator and I had a hat. I got my stuff over here in the U.K. and I’d actually been gifted the hat by my best friend from New York. Mags got her dress in Halifax, and her fascinator when she visited me in Scotland.”
Maggie’s dress came from a sample sale at Urbanbutter Creative Group in Burnside, a favourite shopping haunt. The garden party was the first time she wore a fascinator.
“It was pretty special, I haven’t worn one before so it was pretty cool to put on a fascinator and go to Buckingham Palace,” said Maggie, who said if they’d been given a choice of royals, they would have asked to meet the Queen.
“Just given that she’s 93 years old and has been Queen for so long. It’s special to have met her,” she said. “She walks really well for her age.”
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